Feb 27, 2018 | Blog

Want to build a great safety culture? Think technology is the answer?

by Duncan Davies

In this blog by Notify CEO, Duncan Davies, he cautions against the idea that technology can deliver ‘all’ the answers, and shines a light on an under-rated and intangible organisational asset: data, big and small.

Over the past few months of listening to company Directors and many Health & Safety professionals, there are phrases I’ve heard time and again:

 “I know we’re under-reporting near misses”

“we still post near miss cards to head office….in the 21st century!”
“we find out about things days or weeks after the event, sometimes even on Lost Time Incidents”
“our biggest risk is being shut down by the HSE”
“my monthly report takes me hours to pull together”
“I have no idea if we’re getting better or worse”

“people don’t want to use paper forms because they take ages to complete”

“when someone flags a near miss, one of my team phones them up to take details”

Our experience at Notify suggests that businesses tend to fall into two camps when looking at how to address these challenges.

On my right we have the tech-believers (“just automate the process, it’s easy!”) and to my left we have the tech-tonics (cautious, slow movers who see pitfalls at every turn; not least having to deal with IT!).

Workplace Technology is just a tool

This statement might be a bit controversial for the Silicon Valley crowd, but technology is most of all an enabler. It’s an amazingly powerful one, but only when human intelligence directs it to a useful job.

As with any tool, you need to know what job you want to do with it. You need to know how to use it and you need to know your ultimate objective. Is it stronger compliance, or zero accidents, or a better safety culture, or greater efficiency?

Look at the tools you use today: paper, telephone, carrier pigeon(!) etc, and decide if technology tools could help you deliver your goals more effectively. Also think about what you’d do with the time you’ll save not doing the old tasks…what will you do for your organisation with the time not spent chasing forms and filling in bits of paper or spreadsheets?

Tech-tonics

Approach this whole new world with caution and healthy skepticism. They recall the last IT project where they ended up having to employ someone to enter data onto the computer. And the time before when the IT provider built loads of useful stuff, which was great until a re-organisation meant they needed to change the software structure and were sent a quote for “new development, not covered under the support contract…”

Tech-believers

On the other hand, are convinced that technology can fix anything. Just because they have an app that controls their central heating at home…(it’s pretty cool, to be fair)

They need to go back to the key question of what job needs doing and being clear about the objectives. This can be really hard when the thing you’re trying to fix could be as vague as “improving employee engagement in health & safety”.

Being as precise as you can now saves time later.